Meet the opposition: Bristol Rovers
As Swansea City Under-21s get set to face Bristol Rovers in tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy second-round clash at the Liberty Stadium, we take a closer look at the League One outfit.
How’s their form?
Rovers, who have won this competition on two occasions, booked their place in the knockout stages after finishing second behind Exeter City in Southern Group D.
They recorded 2-0 victories over West Ham United Under-21s and Yeovil Town before going down by the same scoreline against Exeter, although their passage into the next round had already been secured.
However, the Pirates are not in the best of form ahead of their trip to South Wales – losing each of their last five games in all competitions and sitting 21st in League One.
Who’s the boss?
Darrell Clarke. The former midfielder, who played for the likes of Mansfield and Hartlepool, is rapidly approaching five years in charge of Rovers.
Despite being unable to prevent their relegation to the National League when he took charge, Clarke successfully guided Rovers to consecutive promotions, first back into the Football League and then to League One.
After overseeing two mid-table finishes, he has endured a tricky start to 2018-19 and will be looking to drag his team away from danger in the second half of the campaign.
Who are the key men?
In goal, 25-year-old Jack Bonham has become a favourite with Rovers fans since his loan move from Brentford in the summer. The 6ft 4in stopper has turned in a string of impressive displays between the posts at the Memorial Stadium.
Welsh international Tom Lockyer is a regular at the heart of the Rovers defence. Now club captain, he has made more than 250 appearances for the Pirates since his arrival from Cardiff City in 2011.
Also in defence is Joe Partington – formerly of Wales Under-21s. The 28-year-old, who is approaching 50 appearances for Rovers, has fond memories of playing at the Liberty, where he scored for Bournemouth in a 2-1 victory in 2008.
Further up the pitch, Liam Sercombe is an inspirational figure in midfield. The former Exeter and Oxford man enjoyed an impressive 2017-18, winning Rovers’ player of the year and goal of the season awards. Injury disrupted his start to this campaign, but he recently returned to action and was on target against Scunthorpe United and Gillingham.
Goals have not come easily for Rovers at times this season, but Tom Nichols could be the man to watch up front. Having arrived at the Memorial Stadium in 2017 following an impressive strike rate with Peterborough United the previous season, he was recently on target against Barnet in the FA Cup.